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July 4, 2013

I Hraet You (71)

Beat 71: Well, When You Put It That Way…

Lloyd didn’t get any sleep.

The gears in his head buzzed and drudged in an attempt to form a single coherent thought.  They couldn’t.  They tried, but failed.  Many, many, many times. 

He could still call up vague memories of what had happened that night.  The bits about the machete and the bottle came easily enough, but everything after that had blurred almost beyond recognition.  He could piece together images of some very harmful instruments.  A few meals that made him wonder if his injuries had left him with infrared vision.  A few screams about love and violence.  And the pain.  So much pain.

So Lloyd didn’t bother going to sleep.  He just lay on his side, refusing to move the arms and legs now chained to that chair, and stared at the ruptured wall ahead.  Sheila’s bed -- what remained of it, at least -- had been crammed into the hole, along with some planks of wood and a few blankets.  Sheila herself slept soundly a few feet away, her legs shifting across a too-small blanket, and her arm wrapped around a Lloyd-faced pillow.  And as she turned once more, rattling with mucus and muttering sweet nothings to her pillow, Lloyd finally formed a full thought.

I’m going to die in here.  Three seconds later, he fell asleep.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t last.  His ten seconds of peaceful bliss came to an abrupt end as Sheila started moving around -- the sound of which made Lloyd fear for his life all over again.  But she hardly acknowledged his presence, nor he hers; with dawn well upon them, she started shifting into her daily routine.  She didn’t have anywhere to go, but she sure had plenty to do.

Not that Lloyd noticed.  He just kept staring at the wall.

“…Oh, what?  You’ve gotta be…!”  Sheila sighed and groaned, and Lloyd caught a glimpse of a robe fluttering atop her body.  “Mooooooooooooooooom?” she yelled, speeding past the door before Lloyd could even process her fumbling with the first lock.  “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”

“…Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

“I need some new bras.  I don’t think mine are gonna fit anymore.”

“Oh, what?  Damn it, Sheila -- I JUST bought you some!”

“That was months ago!  It’s like Lloyd said last night -- I’m still a growing girl!  And they WERE starting to feel a little tight…”

“Normal girls have the decency to STOP growing after a while, you know!  Besides, do you know how expensive it is getting your underwear?  It’s like I’m constantly shoving money into the garbage can!”

“First of all, it’s not ‘constantly’!  And second, it’s for a good cause!”

“A good cause?  How is THIS supposed to be a good cause?!”  Jane groaned so loudly Lloyd thought that she stood right next to him.  “Jesus Christ, Sheila -- what are we up to now?  Oh my God, if we’re up to -- how is that even humanly possible, anyway?  And how far up the alphabet do you intend to go?  Last I checked we only had twenty-six letters!”

“You’re just being stupid now!  There’s no way I’ll ever get that big!  I’m still just a…a…”  Sheila muttered something, but what, Lloyd couldn’t quite make out.

“Oh -- oh -- oh, I’m sorry, what was that?  Because I’m pretty damn sure that’s not a letter I want to hear used to describe you.  What are you -- what is this?  Are you being serious right now?  Sheila, am I going to have to stop feeding you entirely?  What am I going to have to do to get your hormones under control?”

“I-I don’t know!  Besides, maybe I don’t want my hormones under control!  Maybe I like being this way!  It’s a lot better than being a boring old hag like you!”

“Who in the HELL are you calling boring?”

“You!  You’re the most generic person I’ve ever met -- and I bet you’re jealous that I’m so --”

“Freakish?  Overblown?  A wannabe call girl?”

“Why does it matter to you?  Can’t you just get your own life?  Stay out of mine, and let me do what I want!”

“I AM letting you do what you want -- and right now it looks like ‘doing what you want’ leads to a re-enactment of Reservoir Dogs!”

“Well, maybe that’s what I want!”

“And maybe I want a daughter who doesn’t torture our guests!”

“And maybe I want a mom that isn’t a chubby chaser!”

“Take that back!”

“Make me!”

What happened next, Lloyd couldn’t know without being in there himself -- but somehow, he suspected that he didn’t want to be in there.  He thought he heard something along the lines of punching.  And kicking.  And biting.  And twisting.  And snapping, and cracking, and scraping, and burning, and exploding.

But he just lay there, staring at the wall. 

“Whoa, what in the -- what happened here?  Lloyd?  Are ya still in there, pal?”

Lloyd lifted his head a few centimeters -- at that point, he couldn’t do much more.  “Miss Walters?  Miss Walters, is that you?”

“Sure is.  What’s goin’ on in there?”

“It’s more than a little complicated.”

“Hold on, I’m comin’ in.”  The junk lodged in the wall shifted to the left, revealing a decently-sized gap in the wall.  And in that gap stood Trixie, with Mrs. Overdose following just a few feet behind.  “There, we go. That oughta…”  She stepped into the room and laid eyes on Lloyd -- and reeled as if someone stuck a pack of ice cubes down her shorts.  “Wha -- HEY!  Ya gotta warn me when yer not wearin’ clothes!  Yer all indecent and…and!”  She whipped her body around to face the gap.  “It just ain’t right lookin’ at ya like this!”

That’s your takeaway?” Mrs. Overdose asked.  She gave Lloyd a quick once-over -- and a fourth-over, just to be safe.  “Huh.  Kid’s a tight little number.”

“Don’t look!  Yer not supposed to -- aw, never mind.  Guess it ain’t important now.”  Trixie turned back around, rubbing her neck and blushing furiously.  “Okay, Lloyd.  Ya wanna tell us just what happened here?”

“Yes, well, Miss O’Leary proved a bit more…determined than I anticipated.”  Lloyd couldn’t help but notice that both of them had already started probing the room with their eyes, and he couldn’t blame them for it.  “She seems eager to use me as a means to reach her goals -- though what those entail, I prefer not to dwell upon for long.”

“I get it,” said Mrs. Overdose as she poked a clay Lloyd head.  “So she’s a psycho that wants to ride the bumper cars with you, and like an idiot you waltzed right into her house.  If you ask me, you’re lucky you’ve still got your eyeballs in your head.”

“I wouldn’t say she’s a ‘psycho’.  Besides, anyone who’s eager to ride in bumper cars can’t possibly mean -- oh wait, that was a euphemism, wasn’t it?”  Lloyd smiled wearily.  “My apologies.  I’m not quite at my best right now.”

“But you know she’s a psycho, right?”

“It’s impossible to say without proof, obviously.”

“You’re serious?”  She ran a hand around the room.  “So I guess all this is just decoration, huh?  And those chains around you -- what, they’re just an itchy sweater?”

“I should hope not.  Itchy sweaters have never been something I enjoy.  Though I suppose the same applies to turtlenecks, now that I think about it.”

Mrs. Overdose bit down on her reed, and looked to Trixie in exasperation. 

“Look, pal.  The two of us ain’t tryin’ to be cruel; it’s just time for us to face facts.  This Sheila girl’s some real trouble.  Ya may like her, and ya may be tryin’ to help her, and that’s real great -- but ya gotta be realistic here.  From where I’m standin’, it looks like yer about a half-hour away from dyin’.  Is this really the kinda person ya wanna hang around with much longer?”

Lloyd couldn’t bring himself to look at them -- no doubt because of the feral howl Sheila let loose a few rooms away.  “It’s true that she put me in a state of disarray, but even so…even so, I don’t believe she’s a truly malicious person.  Nor is she someone afflicted by a malady of the mind.”

“Lloyd, ya can’t be --!”

“I DO believe, however, that she’s receiving some particularly poor advice.  Her actions are not entirely her own -- and the sooner I can piece together the clues, the sooner I can find the means to aid her.”  He took a slow breath.  “What was once a show of benevolence may have become obligation -- to her mother, and above all else to Miss O’Leary herself.”

“And what if she doesn’t need your help?”

Lloyd turned to Mrs. Overdose, who poked casually around the room.  “Say you use your power on her, but it turns out she’s all right on her own.  Then what?  Gonna screw with her head just so you can say you did the right thing?”  She folded her arms.  “Hell, she might not even want your help.  She’s got herself a family and ideas, and maybe a dream or two.  You think she’s gonna just let you come on over and do what you want with her?”

“But if she’s --”

Especially if she’s a psycho.  I would’ve figured that crazies are okay with their lives just the way they are.  You sure it’s right to tell her it’s not?” 

Lloyd didn’t give her an answer.  Neither did Trixie; she looked like she tried to, but each time she did she could only form a few mumbles before turning away. 

“You’d better think long and hard about what you wanna do, kid.  ‘Cause if you don’t, you’re not the only one that’ll end up hurt.  Again.”

“Again?” Trixie asked.  But she didn’t press for an answer -- and neither did Lloyd.

Mrs. Overdose just shrugged and went back to poking around the room.  “…Or, you know, don’t.  Whatever.  Not like I care -- it’s Wednesday, and that’s when the good shows start popping up.”

Lloyd sighed heavily, and resumed his tired game of wall-staring -- and did his best to ignore the rumble caused by Sheila flinging a human body against a distant wall.  If Sheila really was a psychopath, then what would he do?  Help her anyway, risk his life, and die at her hands?  Could he just ignore her, and avoid any more love-fueled mishaps?  If she was crazy, then he owed her -- and her mother -- the chance to be set straight.  But it was just as the gunwoman had said -- who was he to intrude on her life, and change it to his liking?  What if she liked everything the way it was now?

He peered at Mrs. Overdose.  He knew that she wasn’t just blowing smoke; the circumstances were different, but the intent the same; he’d pushed her off one path for another.  His.  Just how much damage had he done, and how much had he taken away from her as a result?  How much would he take from others if he kept up at this pace?  How long until he really did become worse than Gaston?

He didn’t have any answers.  But suddenly, he realized he didn’t need any.  Not yet.

“I just have to ask her.”

Trixie and Mrs. Overdose turned to Lloyd, who -- in spite of lying in a crusty pile of God-refused muck smiled wistfully.  “I just have to ask her,” he repeated.  “Of course.  Now it all makes sense.  The path to glory is slowly revealing itself -- and with it in tow, we’re one step closer to victory.”

“Ya followin’ this?” Trixie asked.  Mrs. Overdose shook her head.

“I can understand your confusion.  Frankly, I don’t quite understand it myself -- partly because of extreme circumstances, the likes of which may prove lethal if I’m to go through them another night.  But our course of action is quickly becoming clearer to me, you see.  My intention is to aid Miss O’Leary, now more than ever…and if my theory is correct, then I can do so without even leaving this room.”

“Wait, what?  Ya mean ya wanna stay here?  Lloyd, yer lookin’ like ya got flung by a tornado!  What makes ya think stayin’ here’s a good idea?”

“Because I won’t be staying alone.”

Mrs. Overdose frowned.  “Whoa, whoa, whoa.  I’m not stayin’.  Not if it means gettin’ tied up by Clarabelle Cow.”

“Oh no, don’t misinterpret me.  It’s true that I’ll need your help in a few moments, but ultimately this will be a matter between -- and settled by -- Miss O’Leary and myself.  For good or for ill, we’ll have our climax soon enough -- though if my efforts prove fruitful we’ll all be well on our way.”  His smile widened.  “I made a grave mistake.  The issue was that I tried to do things slowly and rationally, and applying a bit of tact to a situation well beyond my control.  I realize now that it runs counter to my methodology.  If I’m to succeed, help others, and begin a counter-offense against Gaston, I must remain true to myself.  I have no choice but to fight logic with un-logic.”

“What in the hell are you…?”

“Lady Overdose.  You’ll be instrumental in carrying out my plan -- and the one primed to benefit most.  Cooperate with me, and you’ll not only receive immediate rewards; you’ll have your servant by your side once more.”  He nodded at her; if he had free range, he might have bowed in kind.  “Forgive my impertinence, milady.  But while my loyalty to you remains intact, there are times when a servant must offer himself to others -- even if his life depends on it.”

“His life, huh?”  Mrs. Overdose looked down at Lloyd.  Minutes ago, he looked about ready to kick the bucket -- a sinking face, darkening bags, and eyes as dull as boulders.  But that fatigue had left him -- and even beyond that, he didn’t look like the normal Lloyd.  Somehow, he made that glint in his eyes shine brighter than ever before.

She shrugged lazily.  “Pfft.  Fine.  I’ll let you have this one.  So what’s your big plan, hero?”

“Ah, that’s simple.  We have to torture Miss O’Leary.”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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